New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the CBI not to compel a businessman and a senior DRI official, arrested by the agency in connection with a Rs 3-crore bribery case, to unlock the phones allegedly seized from them at the time of arrest.
The direction by Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar came on the pleas by the two challenging legality of a trial court order of Wednesday asking them to provide passwords of the seized phones or unlock them.
Apart from the trial court’s January 22 order, the petitioners have also challenged the CBI’s notice of the same day to appear before it on Thursday at 1 pm for unlocking the phones. The high court said, “Till disposal of the petitions, the petitioners be not compelled to unlock the phones.”
With the direction, the court listed the matter for final hearing on January 29. During the hearing, the lawyers appearing for petitioners Chander Shekhar, the DRI official, and businessman Rajesh Dhanda told the high court the direction to them to unlock the phones or provide the passwords was a violation of their right against self-incrimination.
The lawyers said their clients have the option of saying the phones are not theirs or that they do not remember the password, but they are challenging the legality of the trial court order. “I cannot be asked to incriminate myself. By unlocking the phone, I am admitting it is mine and the information contained in it is also mine. Let them (CBI) say why they cannot open it. Let their Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory (CFSL) open it,” the lawyers said.
The lawyer for the CBI said the phones were seized from the accused at the time of their arrest. The trial court order had come on CBI’s application seeking directions to the accused to unlock their phones seized at the time of arrest.
Dhanda was arrested on January 1 by the CBI along with Shekhar, then DRI Additional Director General (ADG) of Ludhiana, in connection with the case. A third person, Anoop Joshi, a clearing house agent, was also arrested by the probe agency.
Dhanda, according to his petition, was later granted bail by the trial court on January 16. According to the CBI, in June last year, the DRI had conducted a search at a private clearing agency which provides services to various exporters, and some documents pertaining to an exporter were also seized.
According to a complaint received by the agency, Joshi and Dhanda, a close friend of Shekhar, allegedly demanded Rs 3 crore on behalf of the public servant for ensuring the complainant is not implicated by the DRI over documents recovered. The agency arrested Joshi and Dhanda while allegedly receiving Rs 25 lakh as first installment of the bribe demanded by them on behalf of the officer, the CBI had said at the time of the arrest.